Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Awesome in the Insignificant

I woke up discouraged this morning. You know those days that when you get right down to it, either the Lord just isn't doing what you want Him to do or the answers to your prayers just seem to be taking too long. We talked about it this morning and He was so gracious to remind me that He knows it's hard sometimes but I can trust Him. He IS working. His plans are for my good. His timing is perfect.

I was reminded of Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. The LORD told them that as soon as the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stepped into the river, He would stop the water. Well, the priests obeyed and stepped out in faith and the LORD answered at that exact moment and stopped up the water... approximately 16 miles upstream! It has been calculated that the priests stood in the river, with the water rushing against them, for 7 1/2 - 12 1/2 hours before they saw the results of God's working. That's where the LORD has me right now... persevering in faith though sometimes I'm ever so aware that the waters of life are rushing against me. You can read about it in Joshua 3.

I accepted that Word and then proceeded to say, "But, Lord, it's hard..." I am so glad that His loving-kindness endures forever, that His mercies are new every morning! He took me to one of my favorite passages - Psalm 118. In verses 10-11, He seems to say, "I know that the enemy seems to be compassed about you. I know they surround you on every side BUT in My Name you will cut them off." It's as if He hears me still say, "it's hard, Lord." Once again, I feel Him say, "I know. It seems like bees swarming or a fire blazing through the underbrush BUT in My Name you will cut them off!" I can once again echo the words of the psalmist who said, "my adversary thrust sorely at me that I might fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my Strength and Song and He has become my Salvation." (Psalm 118:13-14 Amplified) The Lord enabled me to greet the day with a song in my heart and my hope renewed!

So off We went - my Lord and I - grocery shopping. Now you might think that I'm crazy but I love to go grocery shopping with the Lord! I am learning to really trust His provision and He seems to delight in surprising me with good gifts. Today, He showed His awesome care for me! He cares about the needs and desires that seem huge as well as the absolutely insignificant! I wanted some Glade plug-in airfreshners. I was given a number of the refills but didn't have anything to plug them into. We're really trying to honor the Lord with our finances and trust Him in big decisions and small, so as I was looking at the little gadgets, I asked Him if I could have one. It was $5.99 for one plug-in and refill. He told me that it could wait so I left it. I finished in that store and then had to go to another to get cream for our coffee. As I walked to the dairy aisle, there was a clearance display with a bonus pack of Glade plug-in airfreshners on for 50% off! For $4.99, I got TWO plug-ins and TWO refills! The Lord knew what He had already reserved for me just a little farther down the road!

I love the Lord! I sang, "He loves me too! He loves me too! I know He loves me too! If God so loves these little things, I know He loves me too!" Those words are from an old chorus called "He sees the Little Sparrow". I couldn't help but wonder about the circumstances that prompted the disciples to record those words. Can't you just see Jesus, stooping down to pick up a tiny sparrow that fell from its place of security. Can you picture Him cradling the tiny bird, quietly speaking words of reassurance? Doesn't it just make you stop in wonder? Who is this Jesus that He cares for the things that the world doesn't stop to see? He's the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Sufficient Savior and He's caring for our details! Thank You, Lord!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Such Reason to "Fear Not"

Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. Yes, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

How can you not love words like that? I read them, memorize them, remind myself of them and they are such sweet words of life to me! Can it get sweeter? Praise His Name (which I discovered is Elohim in this passage) it can!!

I spent time in this verse this morning. I pulled out "Strong's Concordance" and dug into the original Hebrew words. I am constantly amazed at how limiting the English language is. Despite our many words, we only paint in water colors the awesome brilliance of the Word of God. Consider these definitions and how much more depth they cast in an already magnificent masterpiece.

"Elohim" - The Supreme God of gods, the Sovereign Authority Who mightily created all that is, the Triune God Who spoke (or perhaps sang) the world into being.

"with" - The Hebrew word is 'im (5973). It means to accompany, as long as, beside, before and (from 6004) to associate or to overshadow by huddling together. How profound!

Fear not for I, the Creator of all, am with you, accompanying you as long as you are. There's no reason to be afraid. I am beside you, before you, overshadowing you as We huddle together!

"dismayed" - Hebrew sha'ah (8159) meaning to gaze about (for help), as one looking around in amazement or bewilderment.

Don't gaze about you in bewilderment. Your help is right here. I spoke the world and all that it contains into being with just My Words. I am your God!

"strengthen" - 'amats (553) which means to be alert physically or mentally, to be courageous, stedfastly minded, strong, stronger, fortify and prevail.

"help" - 'azar (5826) to surround, protect, aid.

"uphold" - tamak (8551) to sustain, keep fast, help, follow close, retain or hold up (with a reference to 8543 - just as He did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that).

My God will make me physically strong and courageous. He will cause my mind to be stedfast. I will be fortified and I can prevail! He has promised to come to my aid and protect me. He reminds me again that He surrounds me. He will sustain me and keep me held fast - just like He did yesterday and the day before that. Hindsight always gives me a truer picture of the incredible strength and dexterity of His righteous right arm!

O Creator God, these words give life to my heart and soul! You have proved them true to me over and over again! You say fear not because there is nothing to fear! You've got me covered. When I look back at who I used to be and the situations that You have sustained me through, I see Your mighty strength everywhere! As You remind me of that, there is no need to gaze about for help. My help comes from You, O Lord, and I feel Your courage well up within me once again. Thank You for the precious gems in Your Word. Thank You for challenging me to mine them! I love You, Lord!

Friday, March 6, 2009

More on Precepts and Statutes...

If you haven't read "Precepts, Statutes and Other Awesome Stuff!" yet, skip over this entry until you have...

This blog entry is all about my core values and priorities that the Lord has been impressing upon my heart. These are the priorities that govern my time schedule and tasks. These are what I use to help me choose between good and best. For those of you that know me, these are the things that I want to be remembered by to the praise of the Lord's marvelous grace!

Karrie Smyth - Core Values
I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, He will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD Almighty. Zechariah 4:6

Therefore, by the power of His Spirit in me:

1. Above all, I will seek intimate fellowship with the Lord.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
If my people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)
2. I will live a life of worship and therefore a life of joy.
“If He never did any more for me than save my soul, it would be worth praising Him forever!”
I beseech you therefore, brethren, in light of God’s great mercies, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service [spiritual act of worship]. (Romans 12:1 KJV [NIV])
Jesus declared… “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
Light is sown for the [uncompromisingly] righteous and strewn along their pathway, and joy for the upright in heart [the irrepressible joy which comes from consciousness of His favor and protection]. (Psalm 97:11 AMP)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2-3)

3. Because I know the Master, I will have integrity with my time, talents and treasure.
The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.” His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:20-21)
Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise [sensible, intelligent people] making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31-32)

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
(Matthew 6:19-21)

4. I will bring honor to my husband as I serve him.
The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her securely, so that he has no lack of [honest] gain or need of [dishonest] spoil… Her husband is known in the [city’s] gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. (Proverbs 31:11, 23 AMP)
[You who are] household servants, be submissive to your masters with all [proper] respect… in like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on them, and adapt yourselves to them], so that even if any do not obey the Word [of God], they may be won over not by discussion but by the [godly] lives of their wives. (1 Peter 2:18a, 3:1 AMP)

5. I will bring blessing to my children as I train them.
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers… (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

6. I will honor God with my body.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
But [like a boxer] I buffet my body…discipline it…and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit]. (1 Corinthians 9:27 AMP)

7. I will love others as Christ commands.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire this love [make it your aim, your great quest]; and earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual endowments (gifts)…since you are so eager and ambitious to possess spiritual endowments and manifestations of the [Holy] Spirit, [concentrate on] striving to excel and to abound [in them] in ways that will build up the church. (1 Corinthians 14:1a, 12 AMP)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

8. I will be a seeker of the lost, a teacher of disciples and an equipper of leaders.
[Strive to] save others, snatching [them] out of [the] fire; on others take pity [but] with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality. (Jude :23)
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you… (Matthew 28:19, 20a)
Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)
I encourage you to sit quietly before the Lord and work out values based on His Word for your life. It has been one of the most life-changing exercises that I have ever done. My values are bigger than what is taking place in my life at any one moment and have been only minimally revised in the years since I wrote them. Many years ago, I wrote a personal mission statement but I struggled greatly to know how to live it out. If these are my values, they are going to place requirements on my time. If these are my values, they lead to specific goals and extend to the day to day details of my task list. The Lord gave me an amazing friend who specializes in teaching women how to determine and live out lives of purpose. If you would like more information on how to do this, leave me a message and a way to reach you and I will get you further information.
Now, by the grace of God, may I "finish the work so that my eager willingness to do it will be matched by my completion of it according to my means." (see 2 Corinthians 8:11)

Precepts, Statutes and Other Awesome Stuff...

I have enjoyed the discipline of daily Bible reading for a number of years now but on January 4th, 2009, when Beth Moore issued the challenge to be "steeped" in the Word of God, the message resonated deep within me. She called us to wonder what the Lord might do in and through those that would give Him a year and take a deep dive into the Word. So, with anticipation and excitement, I plunged in!

Beth had read from Psalm 119 and I decided that this was the perfect place to start. After all, I wanted to know what the Lord required of me concerning His Word and what He promised concerning His Word. Psalm 119 is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet, each section divided into 8 verse sections. I started by reading 1 section a day in the Amplified, King James and New Living Translations. On day 2, I decided to look up key words in Hebrew using the Strong's Concordance. I was immediately stunned by just how limited the English language is! When I stop to consider that I am an English speaker merely looking words up in basically an English/Hebrew dictionary, I can't tell you how much I wish that I were Hebrew speaking and understood more of that culture and tradition! However, the Lord is so faithful! I have learned so much! And with each new lesson comes new excitement! I thought that I would share just a few of the highlights with you...

Precepts... The Hebrew word used many times in Psalm 119 as precepts is "piqquwd". As simply as I can define it, it is the collective mandates of God. The Merrium/Webster online dictionary suggests an authoritative mandate especially of a superior to an inferior as well as an authorization to act as a representative. Before this, I always thought that the words precepts, statutes, commandments and testimonies were basically interchangeable. Although I see much overlap, there is specific and significant unique meaning to each word. As I've sat at the Lord's feet and been taught by His Spirit, He's shown me some valuable applications to my life. Not only do God's collective mandates for me include the Ten Commandments and to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself (see Mark 12:30-31) but they also include the values and goals that His Word has inspired and even the priorities and tasks that spring from those. Over the past couple of years, the Lord has been impressing these on me and we've been working through them (I'll post them under their own heading). Through my study of Psalm 119, I've come to consider the Lord's precepts as His "pre-sets" for my life. I am to "do no willful wandering" from them (vs. 3), "observe them diligently" (vs. 4). I can ask the Lord to "make me understand the way" of His precepts. The word understand is to cause me to recognize intelligently, discern spiritually and even feel emotionally (see Strong's 995 "biyn"). I am to seek and inquire for His precepts for they will cause me to "walk at liberty and at ease" (vs. 45)! Does it get any more promising than that?! I am merely scratching the surface but if it's by His precepts that I am quickened, repaired, made whole, given the promise of life... I WANT them!

Statutes... The Hebrew word for statutes is "choq" (Strong's 2706). (Forgive me for not knowing how to type in the appropriate accents in the transliterations). These are enactments, hence appointments of time, space, quantity, labor or usage. The Lord God of the Universe has the right to set appointments upon my time, my space and personal environment, my labor, what I use, to set up tasks - whatever with me! Though I have found 3 distincitively separate words for "teach" in Psalm 119, I think the one used in verse 33 regarding statutes is my favorite! "Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I will keep it unto the end." That word "teach" or "yarah" is showcased in 2 Chronicles 26 (especially vs. 15) when young King Uzziah was "marvelously helped til he was strong." The Lord taught this young 16 year old King of Judah and he won victories, fortified the kingdom, harvested and even manufactured inventions. I want the Lord to teach me about using my time, space, labor etc. to produce a maturity in me like that! I can count on Him to teach me His statutes. The word translated "teach" in verse 26 implies that He will do it through discipline if He has to. I have to say, "Praise God"! Do what it takes!

Testimonies... Hebrew 5713 "edah" is the Lord's witnesses (within me). I am to keep them (vs. 2) for they are my "delight" and my "counsellors" (vs. 24). When I "cleave" to the witness of His Spirit within me, I will not be put to shame (disappointed or delayed, confounded, confused or dry) (vs. 31). How wonderful! You know those checks that we sense in our spirit when we are about to do something we shouldn't or the confirmation we sense when we have chosen obedience. "Listening" to the witness of God's Spirit within me definitely takes awareness and practice and I don't claim to have mastered it but it is so precious to us that the Lord likens it to "enough riches" in verse 14! How much is enough for you? No debt! No needs! No wants! Would you rejoice in that kind of material substance? "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as [much as] in all riches." O Lord, please bring me to the place where I understand the depths of that!

I'd love to tell you about the Hebrew word that we translate "way" or "ways" or how awesome it is that "all my ways are [fully known]" before the Lord. Check out the Hebrew word "derek" (Strong's 1870) for that! Or how the word we translate as "walk" implies practice. Or the word "turn" (vs. 59) how it reminds us that God knows He's going to have to come and fetch us home "again and again". Praise Him! I could go on and on but that would rob you of such a blessing as you search for yourself.

There is one last thing that I want to share. It's an answer to a prayer that I forgot that I had prayed. (I'm so thankful that our God doesn't forget!) On January 1st, 2009, the Lord was showing me that He was going to do a new work in my life (Isaiah 43:19). He is leading me on a path that I haven't known (Isaiah 42:16). It's His pleasure to magnify instruction and revelation (Isaiah 42:21) and was I not going to "give heed" to it (Isaiah 43:19b)? I wrote in my journal "How, Lord? Show me how to heed!" Perhaps the most profound definition of all came just 6 short days later...

The Hebrew word translated "heed" and in other places as keep and obey is "shamar" (Strong's 8104). It means to hedge about (as with thorns), to be circumspect (360 degrees), to protect, to attend to, to keep (oneself), to mark and to save. I want the Word of God to be so involved in my life as to be a hedge of thorns 360 degrees around me to guard and protect me, to attend to and save me from the tempting dangers of our world! Now that puts new meaning to our conscience being "pricked" as we are tempted to wander from the life-giving witness of the Sweet Spirit of God as He reminds us of God's collective mandates (or pre-sets) for our lives, the Lord's rightful appointments as to our time, space, labor, tools of usage and whatever else the Lord asks of me - for my own good!

Do this new work in me, Lord! I love the way You are magnifying Your instructions! Steep me in Your Truth! And since I am absolutely positive that I am completely incapable of doing this work on my own, I am especially grateful for the reminder that You gave me yesterday...

"Blessed be the Lord, Who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. Not one word has failed of all His good promise... that He may incline our hearts to Him, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His precepts which He commanded... that He may maintain the cause and right of His servant and of His people Israel as each day requires." (see 1 Kings 8:56, 58, 59b)